London Zoo and Bird Flu
London Zoo Closes Bird Exhibits To Protect Against Avian Flu
London Zoo has closed its walk-through bird enclosures, including that of the much loved penguins, to ensure that the birds do not contract a virulent strain of avian flu. The free-flying bird displays have also been cancelled and the zoo’s chickens have been moved inside.
Keep Birds Inside
The zoo has taken these preventative measures following an order for all bird keepers in the UK to keep their animals indoors for a period of one month. This order was issued by the Government’s chief vet, Nigel Gibbens, and applies to both commercial keepers and private individuals with pets. The period of the order may have to be extended. Surveillance for the disease has been stepped up and everyone is being asked to remain vigilant.
Transmission to Humans
It is possible for certain strains of avian flu to be passed to humans. London Zoo’s actions are aimed at protecting people as well as birds. But there have been no reported cases of the disease in birds in the UK this year.
The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) has said that bird flu does not pose a material risk to people in the UK and that the risk of contracting the disease via the food chain is very small. Transmission of the disease usually requires close contact between a human and an infected bird. Cooked products including chicken, turkey and eggs are safe to eat.
A spokesman for London Zoo spoke to the Independent and said: "We have stringent measures permanently in place to ensure our animals remain healthy at London Zoo, and their wellbeing continues to be our priority. None of the birds at ZSL London Zoo have been affected."
The Prevention Zone
There is currently a "prevention zone" established for England. This means that all commercial birds must be kept away from wild birds to minimise the risk of the disease spreading.
The H5N8 strain of avian flu is extremely contagious and has already been discovered in dead wild birds and some farmed birds across Europe. Outbreaks of the disease have been reported in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany during 2016. In addition, 190,000 ducks were destroyed in Holland by the authorities in response to the disease. Infections in people have been reported in Egypt and China.
Hopefully the establishment of the Prevention Zone will prevent avian flu from reaching our shores again. However, it would be almost impossible to exclude all farmed birds and pets from contact with wild birds.